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Edward Thomas: from Adlestrop to Arras review – the man behind the poet

Jean Moorcroft Wilson’s biography of the first world war poet claims to uncover the trials and torments that made him ‘the father’ of modern British poetry

In this full-scale biography of the Great War poet Edward Thomas, the first for a generation, Jean Moorcroft Wilson claims to “give the actual, very different, facts [of his life] for the first time”. Thomas scholars will be grateful for her research; they may judge her determination to correct previous biographical “distortions” less kindly. It is always the biographer’s fantasy to have forged, in the crucible of life-writing, the only true likeness.

Still, her book is timely. Since Nick Dear’s 2012 play about Thomas, The Dark Earth and the Light Sky, and Matthew Hollis’s study of Robert Frost’s relationship with Thomas, Now All Roads Lead to France, there has been a steady revival of interest in the poet now seen as a key link between Hardy and Hughes, who described him as “the father of us all”.

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